Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking a Break from Studying

Oh, it's been a busy week here in Roma!

Tuesday: We walked all over Rome in my art history class--from the Colosseum to the Forum to the Pantheon to the Mausoleum of Augustus. Class got out late, which isn't normally a big deal except when you are a few miles from home and you have class in an hour...and the buses are not running their normal routes due to a service sector strike in Trastevere.

That's right, the Italian workers in the service sector (from what I read it was mostly people who clean/maintain schools, hospitals, etc) decided to go on strike on Tuesday in front of a public ministry building in Trastevere. There were mobs of people and carabinieri all around, causing a disruption in traffic down Viale di Trastevere, the main street that gets me from my apartment to everywhere else in the city. So I had to walk nearly 3 miles home and miss my next class.

I had another class later that day, at 6:45, and Marina and I figured by this time the people had to have left. We were wrong. The tram took us part of the way, but we had to get off early since the strike was still going on. It looked like it had gotten bigger actually. We started to walk through it, dodging all the people clustered in groups in front of the building, until we got to the other side...and were faced with a line of carabinieri holding their big shields out, not letting anyone through. A few people were getting through, though, by pleading their cases to the carabinieri. Marina and I approached one with our John Cabot IDs in hand. At first he shook his head no, then looked around him and shifted over just slightly. Just enough for us to squeeze through.

When we got out of class at 8, the mob was gone. The tram was running again, and things were back to normal on Viale di Trastevere, as if nothing had happened. The only proof of it was all the trash, cigarette butts, and a few extra protest signs and flags lying on the sidewalk where they had gathered.

Wednesday: Nothing too out of the ordinary today. In my social research methods class we had to explain to the class the topics we chose for our thesis papers. There are only six of us, so it didn't take long. The other girls are doing things like: the link between economic recession and conservative government, what is justice/is justice an international concept, feminism and emotional management/mechanization of the body, etc... Then when it was my turn I threw out my concepts: storytelling and healing. More specifically, using storytelling to heal or healing through narrative. I've found a few articles on the topic so I know I'll have plenty to write about. The other girls thought this was interesting, but they wanted to know what my major was. When I said English, creative writing, they were all like "Oh, that makes sense..." I guess they are all political science/international law/business majors who have to take this class for their majors. As a sociology minor I also have to take the class, though my focus is obviously a bit different than theirs!

Thursday: Today I went on another high school visit. This time it was Liceo Plinio, located more near the center of Rome. I found it without trouble. This liceo is smaller than the other one, only about 600 students, so there was only the one building and I could walk right in. As soon as I got inside, the lady in the front office pointed to me as asked "Americana?" I nodded and said "si" and she pointed me down the hall to another lady, Paula Berna, the teacher I would be shadowing.

I was only there for one class this time, a class of last years. We did something similar to what I did at Liceo Farnesia, with the class asking me questions about America and my life, but at Liceo Plinio the class was much more interested and less chaotic. They would ask where I was from, what the main source of revenue was in my state, etc. and as I would answer Ms. Berna would ask me to write certain words on the board (Rachel, Wisconsin, creative writing, deer, farm, copper/cop, heat and air conditioning, hail) that the students would copy as vocabulary. They filled the hour easily with their questions and I got to ask some of my own at the end.

I would say what surprised them most about my description of life for a teenager in America is how long the day is. I talked about some high schoolers who go into school early, have school from 8-3:30, and then have practice for sports/clubs until 5 or 6, or others who have jobs along with school. They couldn't even imagine that. In Italy, the school day generally goes from 8 until noon or at the latest 2. After that, they go home and have a big lunch with their family and maybe work on some homework or hang out with friends in the afternoon.

When I was done there it was the end of the school day, so I had to make my way out of the school in the midst of hundreds of Italian teenagers...that was a cultural experience in itself!

Friday: I don't know why, but for some reason Marina and I got up at 8 this morning. We made a quick run to the market for eggs, milk, and some vegetables and came back to make ourselves breakfast. We had omelets with peppers and onions, fried potatoes, and fruit along with our coffee and orange juice. We really couldn't have had a more American breakfast, but it was so good.

Then we headed out to see Villa Borghese. It was such a nice day so we walked most of the way, up Via del Corso to Piazza del Popolo. There we took a break for some pictures of the piazza, of the twin churches (see them in Angels and Demons!), and for a breathtaking view of Rome from above the piazza.

Then we walked into Villa Borghese, amazed at all of the grass and clean air. The villa is huge, like a giant park with cafes, open fields, a zoo, and museums. Our destination was the main art gallery. We got there at about one, but the only tickets left were for a five pm viewing. The way it works is you buy your ticket for a specific two-hour time slot, starting at 9 am and going until 7 pm. So we had four hours to spare and a beautiful day stretched out before us. We laid out in the sun for a bit and walked around some more, exploring the rest of the villa. When we got hungry we grabbed a snack at the art cafe.

Finally it was our turn to go in. Villa Borghese is full of amazing statues and paintings--some of the most famous by Bernini and Caravaggio. We saw David, Apollo and Daphne, and Pluto and Prosperpina all by Bernini. I loved having Marina there, since she is learning about all of these statues in her art history class. She is like my own personal tour guide. Our favorite Caravaggios were Madonna of the Palafrenieri and Sick Bacchus.

By the time we were done and made it back home it was almost 8. We had been gone all day, but it was such a fulfilling day. We really couldn't have asked for more!

Saturday: Okay, maybe there is something we could have asked for...some more time to start studying for midterms. Midterms are next week--I have four. Since we didn't really do any homework yesterday, Marina and I are playing catch up getting in all of our studying. Rosanna, Shannon, and Stephanie are also pretty busy with studying so today is a chill day here in the apartment. We will make dinner later since tomorrow is Ro's birthday and we've decided to celebrate today. I think what everyone is most looking forward to is dessert: cake and ice cream, Italian style. Which of course means gelato and whatever we can find in the grocery store that most resembles cake.

So there it is, my crazy week. I'm hoping midterms aren't too stressful and that things will settle down a little after they are over (at least until finals creep up). News from home has also been keeping things exciting here: my acceptance into Summer Project at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (more on that later) and knowing I'll have visitors at the end of my program (Mom, Donna, Grandma, and Ruth)! Lots of things going on, but my history notes are calling me!


  1. I knew you'd love Villa Borghese! It was one of my favs, and we lounged around almost all day there. And what's this about Myrtle Beach?

  2. I'll most likely write a post about North Myrtle this short, it's a summer long internship/mission trip/ministry and leadership training program that I got accepted into.